NFL Prospect Comparisons to Current Players

Mar 12, 2017

Whether you’re looking at the NFL Draft or your dynasty fantasy football league’s rookie draft, you need to know all you can about this year’s prospects. Now that the NFL combine is in the rear view, we can start analyzing players in depth. Here’s how five of the most interesting prospects compare to real NFL players on a measurables basis.

To find comparable players, I’ll make use of three excellent resources; the Player Comparisons tool at Mockdraftable, the Box Score Scout at RotoViz, and the Combine Finder at Pro Football Reference.

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O.J. Howard (TE – Alabama)

From Mockdraftable:

Measurable Measurement Percentile
Height 6′ 6″ 86
Weight 251 lbs 37
Arm Length 33¾” 74
Hand Size 10″ 53
40 Yard Dash 4.51s 96
Vertical Jump 30″ 19
Broad Jump 121″ 86
3-Cone Drill 6.85s 92
20 Yard Shuttle 4.16s 88
60 Yard Shuttle 11.46s 95
Bench Press 22 reps 64

 
Talk about an athlete. That 4.51 40-yard dash time is the ninth fastest for tight ends since 2010. Only two of those players weighed as much or more than Howard, which makes that time even more impressive. It’s hardly possible to fault his poor vertical when you realize he has the seventh-best 3-cone time, and fourth-best shuttle time among the 138 combine TEs since 2010.

Using the RotoViz Box Score Scout, his most similar players are:

Player Ht Wt 40 Broad Cone
O.J. Howard 78 251 4.51 121 6.85
Luke Willson 77 251 4.51 122 7.08
Tony Scheffler 77 254 4.54 115 6.82
Coby Fleener 78 247 4.51 116 7.02
Gary Barnidge 78 243 4.61 117 6.92
Tyler Eifert 78 250 4.66 119 6.92
Travis Kelce 77 255 4.61 124 7.09

 
Those comps are very good. All of them have had long NFL careers, and Kelce, Eifert, Fleener, Barnidge, and Scheffler have had fantasy success. Willson has shown flashes and may finally get a chance to play a bigger offensive role, depending on where he goes in free agency. Tight end is difficult to play, but Howard has elite athleticism for the position. Again, that explosion (broad jump) and agility (cone) at his weight is really impressive.

John Ross (WR – Washington)

Measurable Measurement Percentile
Height 5′ 11″ 22
Weight 188 lbs 19
Arm Length 31½” 36
Hand Size 8¾” 10
40 Yard Dash 4.22s 99
Vertical Jump 37″ 72
Broad Jump 133″ 97

 
He may be short, he may be light, but he can jump – and run – out of the gym. Ross turned in a 4.22 40-yard dash at 188 pounds. That’s better than Dri Archer (4.26, 173), Will Fuller (4.32, 186), and Brandin Cooks (4.33, 189). We’ll have to wait for his pro day to get numbers for some of the other drills, but his 133-inch broad jump is the fourth-best for WRs at the combine since 2010.

Athletically, Ross compares very favorably to one of the best speed demons of our time.

Player Ht Wt 40 Vert Broad Speed Score
Mike Wallace 72 199 4.28 40 129 119
John Ross 71 188 4.22 37 133 119

 
The final column, speed score, adjusts 40 time by weight. A score of 100 is average. Ross’ 4.22 at 188 pounds is equivalent to Mike Wallace’s 4.28 at 199 pounds. Phew. Ross does have small hands so that may be something to watch out for, but athletically he’s a marvel.

Christian McCaffrey (RB – Stanford)

Measurable Measurement Percentile
Height 5′ 11″ 48
Weight 202 lbs 16
Arm Length 30″ 17
Hand Size 9″ 26
40 Yard Dash 4.48s 81
Broad Jump 121″ 76
3-Cone Drill 6.57s 98
20 Yard Shuttle 4.22s 56
Bench Press 10 reps 1

 
He’s not that big, he’s not that strong, but he’s fast and amazingly agile. That 6.57 second 3-cone time is the second-best for RBs at the combine since 2010.

Player Ht Wt 40 Broad Cone
Christian McCaffrey 71 202 4.48 121 6.57
Jamaal Charles 71 200 4.38 122 6.8
Ray Rice 68 199 4.42 119 6.65
Dalvin Cook 71 210 4.49 116 7.27
Danny Woodhead 68 197 4.38 121 7.03

 
Admittedly, those comps are cherry-picked. Ultimately we’ll want to take production, draft position, and landing spot into account. But for this exercise, finding the best athletic comparables is illuminating. McCaffrey might make a decent pivot if you miss out on Dalvin Cook, for example. It’s also true that the modern NFL is a more specialized game than it used to be, and while McCaffrey may not be built to be a “workhorse” he certainly profiles well as a pass catcher and third-down threat.

Brian Hill (RB – Wyoming)

Measurable Measurement Percentile
Height 6′ 1″ 78
Weight 219 lbs 52
Arm Length 31⅜” 59
Hand Size 8⅞” 18
40 Yard Dash 4.54s 62
Broad Jump 125″ 90
3-Cone Drill 7.03s 59
20 Yard Shuttle 4.32s 40
Bench Press 15 reps 13

 
Brian Hill lacks the notoriety of some of the other RBs in this class. And his athleticism doesn’t really pop, except for the broad jump. But things get interesting when we consider his athleticism as a whole.

Player Ht Wt 40 Broad Cone
Brian Hill 73 219 4.54 125 7.03
Adrian Peterson 74 217 4.4 127 7.09
Melvin Gordon 73 215 4.52 126 7.04
Marshawn Lynch 71 215 4.46 125 7.09
Jay Ajayi 72 221 4.57 121 7.1

 
Hill fits smack-dab in the middle of a group of flat-out studs. Of course the odds are long that Hill becomes the next Adrian Peterson. But it’s very intriguing to see what kind of company Hill is keeping athletically. He’s got the size and enough all around athleticism to be a real difference maker.

Curtis Samuel (WR – Ohio State)

Measurable Measurement Percentile
Height 5′ 11″ 22
Weight 196 lbs 38
Arm Length 31¼” 28
Hand Size 9½” 62
40 Yard Dash 4.31s 96
Vertical Jump 37″ 72
Broad Jump 119″ 42
3-Cone Drill 7.09s 23
20 Yard Shuttle 4.33s 20
Bench Press 18 reps 78

 
That 40-yard dash time is in the top 10 since 2010, for WRs and RBs at the combine. The rest of Samuel’s athletic profile doesn’t stand out on its own, but much like Brian Hill, it gets interesting when we look at his complete athletic profile.

Player Ht Wt 40 Vert Broad Shuttle Cone
Curtis Samuel 71 196 4.31 37 117 4.33 7.09
Golden Tate 70 199 4.42 35 120 4.34 7.12
Stefon Diggs 72 195 4.46 35 115 4.32 7.03
T.Y. Hilton 70 183 4.34 35.5 119 4.36 7.03
Randall Cobb 70 191 4.46 33.5 115 4.34 7.08

 
As with the other players in this study, draft position and production are important variables that aren’t accounted for here. Strictly from an athletic point of view, however, Samuel holds his own with four of the best small WRs in the NFL. He’s faster than all of them, and arguably as explosive too, sporting the best vertical of the group.

Conclusion

As the NFL calendar marches steadily toward the draft, it’s important to learn what we can about this year’s prospects. Understanding their athleticism, and where they fit in with their peers, is an important part of that. We’ve barely scratched the surface, so stay tuned to FantasyPros for more insight and analysis.


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Charlie Kleinheksel is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Charlie, check out his archive.


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